KOBE – Andres Iniesta scored for the second game running Wednesday as Vissel Kobe battled their way to an entertaining 1-1 draw with J. League leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Having opened his account with an eye-catching effort in Vissel’s 2-1 win over Jubilo Iwata on Saturday, the Barcelona legend provided another highlight-reel moment with his 17th-minute equalizer at Noevir Stadium.
Two minutes after Patric put the visitors ahead, Iniesta gave home fans a breathtaking glimpse of the skills for which Vissel are reportedly paying $30 million per season.
Receiving the ball near the top left of the box, the 34-year-old Spaniard dribbled across goal, faking his man before unleashing a thunderbolt that beat Sanfrecce keeper Takuto Hayashi in the top left corner.
“I’m very happy to score, but unfortunately we didn’t get the three points for the win, so I can’t really celebrate. But our team was great. It was an excellent effort against a really tough opponent,” Iniesta said.
For the second game in a row, former Germany international Lukas Podolski played setup man to Iniesta, assisting with a pass from the center of Vissel’s attacking half.
Sanfrecce’s early strategy of counterattacking with aerial balls to Patric paid off when the Brazilian striker gave them the lead in the 15th minute.
Racing onto a long ball from Toshihiro Aoyama, the league’s most prolific scorer netted from close range after some unintended help from Vissel defender Theerathon Bunmathan.
With Patric surging forward, the Thai international tried to poke the ball clear but instead sent it away from onrushing keeper Kim Seung-gyu and back into the path of the Brazilian, who promptly scored goal No. 16 of the season.
The striker missed a chance to give the visitors the lead just before halftime, shooting over the bar after beating the offside trap.
Hayao Kawabe squandered an opportunity to net the winner for Hiroshima in the 68th minute, firing over the bar after a one-two with Thai forward Teerasil Dangda opened up a shot from close range.
The win leaves Vissel in fourth place, with goal difference keeping the club ahead of Cerezo Osaka, who beat Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 at home.
In other results from around the league, Brazilian forward Fabricio netted a hat-trick as Urawa Reds thrashed visiting Jubilo Iwata 4-0.
Vegalta Sendai hammered Shonan Bellmare 4-1, with goals to four different scorers.
FC Tokyo dropped from second to third place following a 1-0 defeat against Kashiwa Reysol. A point was good enough for Kawasaki Frontale to move into second place following a 0-0 draw with Sagan Tosu.
Kashima Antlers beat struggling V-Varen Nagasaki 2-1, while Gamba Osaka and Consadole Sapporo drew 1-1.
At Nissan Stadium, striker Jo capped off his two-goal effort with a 90th-minute winner as Nagoya Grampus beat Yokohama F Marinos 2-1.